May 10, 2010

Properly Equipped - Part II

So whenever people ask the question "what camera (or lens or tripod or whatever) do you use?" I always wonder why anyone would care what I use?  But then I realized, as I am studying and looking at other peoples work - I am constantly wanting to know what they shot it with, what lens, what was their lighting set up etc etc.  So yeah, duh, people like to know what others use - even me.    And some of those people whose work I admire may be just as ambivalent about the equipment they are using as I am about mine.   I constantly feel inadequate as a photographer, and I have had to try really hard to not let my equipment add to those feelings of inferiority.

So here is the breakdown about what I am using, with notes about why I have it and what I might wish I had instead.  (And hey - if you steal my camera bag.....heeeerrrrres what you won!)

Canon 50D - I bought this camera a little over a year ago as a step up from the 10D (which I bought to go digital after using the Canon A2E for a long time).  I really wish it was the 5D (not even necessarily the Mark II, and of course now I want the 7D) because it has a full frame sensor.  I looked around on ebay/craigslist etc but it will still out of my budget even used (its a very popular camera - with good reason).  In the end, the 50D was the best I could afford.  I like it, it isn't perfect, but I have no major complaints.  Other than being annoying at times because of the sensor, the 50D has absolutely everything I need.  I have no special allegiance to Canon (I don't really get the Canon/Nikon war at all), I stumbled upon Canon at the urging of a salesperson at BH  Photo in 1998 and once I knew those and had lenses for those, thats what I stuck with. 

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera LensCanon 50mm f/1.8 - I don't care what kind of photography you do, if you are using a Single Lens Reflex camera you should own a 50mm prime (meaning, fixed focal length, not zoom) lens.  It is considered the 'normal' focal length (closest to your eye) and I think is the best lens to really learn with. I have had this lens since 1999 and it has never failed me - its fast and has lovely bokeh (look it up). I have even dropped it (like, hard) more times than I can count and its still going strong.  On my camera, since there is a 1.6x magnification  it is more like 80mm -  it still is a great lens (my default lens for all food photography) but if I want that 'normal' focal length I  need a 35mm lens.  I wish I had one of these as well, but I don't. 

Sigma 28mm f/1.8 EX DG Aspherical Macro Large Aperture Wide Angle Lens for Canon SLR CamerasSigma 28mm f/1.8 Macro - I love this lens.  Its a great price for starters.  I got this lens (actually, it was a birthday present from my mom a couple of years ago, thanks mom!) because I needed a fast wide angle lens - especially for interiors when I am traveling (like cathedrals and such).  The Macro is just bonus - it has a super close focal length and beautiful bokeh.  On my camera the actual focal length ends up being around 45 (so, slightly wider than normal) and this is just a really nice focal length for general-use photography. I use this lens when I travel quite a lot and also in food and various macro projects. I don't think I would trade this lens for anything.

Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR CamerasSigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DL Super Macro - I got this lens like 7 years ago on ebay. Its an ok lens.  Its not expensive, its works great for extreme close-up macro type stuff, like water droplets and what not.  Its hard to focus and I hardly ever use it outside of as a macro lens at 300 mm.  But it works for that.  I wish I had the Canon EF 70-300mm f/2.8 IS USM lens.  But it costs like $2400 so I don't.

Tokina 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 Fish Eye Super Wide Angle - Ok, so I am not ambivalent about this at all. I freaking love this lens.  It is only super distorted at 10mm, so it gives me some creativity at its widest but just a nice super-wide angle when zoomed.  I needed a super-wide angle and this, in my opinion, is the best you can get without spending several thousands (super wides are super expensive).   However, besides my camera body this is the most expensive piece of equipment I have ever bought.


LensBaby 2.0 - This is considered a 'special effects' lens and its endless fun. I use this all the time and I never really get tired of it.  There is a new version (the Composer) out but really I feel no need to upgrade.  I bought this (along with the creative aperture kit) off someone on craigslist a few years ago.  Here and here are a couple examples of photos I took with this. 


Canon Speedlite 430EX II Flash - There are basically 2 Canon flashes, this is the cheaper one.  There is some additional functionality you get with the bigger flash (in addition to it being bigger) but I didn't really need that, since I don't use strobes all that often.  If I decide I need a second strobe, I will probably get the 580EX since it can be the master in a slave set up, and since people tell me its faster than the 430.

Black Rapid Strap RS5 - I just got this for Christmas and think it is the best invention ever.  See, when traveling or out walking around the city or whatever I find carrying a big bulky camera bag to be seriously annoying.  And heavy.  I usually keep my camera out around my neck or on my shoulder anyway, and the normal straps after a day or two of being a tourist practically rub all the skin off my  neck . I hate them.  I keep the battery grip on my camera, and combined with the lens this makes for a heavy set up so it gives me as serious neck and back ache as well.  This strap fixes all of that.  It goes across your body so the camera sits down by your hips and is secure, but can zoom right up to your eye quickly without having to adjust the strap.   And I can store extra batteries/CF cards/ wallet AND my cellphone in the strap itself.  You can also get a double strap so you can carry two bodies with it.  I love it.

Canon BG-E2N Battery Grip - I wanted to have longer battery life and a vertical grip - this allows both (it holds 2 batteries).  Sometimes I remove it if I want my camera to be smaller for sticking in my bag but pretty much this is always on my camera. 

Canon Remote Switch - I use this when shooting food and basically whenever I'm using the tripod.  I use to have a super-cheap made in China knock-off but it broke like the second time I used it.  Ponying up for the Canon one has totally been worth it (ok actually convincing my mom to buy it for me for see a trend here?  Start a public wish list at B&H or Amazon, it will be the best thing you ever do). (note: when shooting food-prep photos I also shoot with the 2-second timer as well because I often need both hands for the photo itself).  This is one of those things that you  just might not really need, but I find for the things I do most of the time its very nice to have.

Benro travel angel 268 Tripod w/Ball head - I used to have a 20 dollar plastic tripod from Ritz Camera that I bought like my freshman year of college.  I just upgraded to this in the past few months.  Thing is, this is still a pretty inexpensive and light tripod, but its leaps and bounds better than what I had.  I got it precisely because it is light, so it won't be a pain to carry while traveling and its folds down small enough to fit in my suitcase.  I would love  to have a really nice, heavy and sturdy tripod for my at-home studio stuff and only travel with this one - I would especially like one that gets much taller and has a tilting bar thingy (I'm so technical) so that I can position the camera directly looking down onto the table.   Maybe someday, but its low on the priority list simply because I have a tripod already.

Holga (with multicolored flash) - This is just plain fun.  I love film, its my roots.  I love the images I get with this, I just need to get a decent scanner so I can do more with them (its like 40 euros to get one roll scanned in at the lab, so I feel like after a few times the scanner has paid for itself.  However, I haven't paid for either up until now so I have a whole lot of images that I have done nothing with.  I don't know a ton about scanners, but from what research I have done I think I would buy the Epson V500 or V600.    Obviously I would love to have some super duper awesome dedicated film scanner but those are not something I'm going to be able to afford anytime soon.  If I start shooting way more film than maybe I would consider it.

Kata Digital Rucksack  - So they have one of these now that has straps on the outside for your tripod - they didn't have that when I bought mine and it hardly seems worth buying a whole new bag for that even though I want it.  Lame.  Anyway, I do love this bag.  It fits everything and has an extra compartment for wallet etc, and a sleeve for your laptop.  I bought this mostly for plane trips cause I don't carry the laptop around much, but its great for carrying camera equipment around town when traveling also.  Its nice and comfy.  For the most  part, I would like to get another smaller over-the-shoulder bag for more every day use, because I don't generally need to carry around ALL my equipment (nor do I want to, this bag is freakin heavy when its full with everything).  I have never really found one I like much, and find myself just throwing stuff in my large purse instead, which probably isn't the best way to take care of my equipment. thats it.  I have several 'holes' in my equipment as far as I'm concerned.  I have no all-around zoom lens (I need a 24-70 f/2.8), which means when I am out shooting I am constantly switching lenses on my camera.  Talk about pain in the ass.  And I have no studio lighting set up.  My house has huge floor to ceiling windows that face south and west, so I have terrific window light that works great for food.  But during the winter and for various random things, I still need some lights.

I didn't get into my computer and software which is as much as part of my equipment as anything.  Here it is in a nutshell: Windows 7 64bit, Photoshop CS4 (and Bridge), a Logitech gaming mouse because its more precise, 1680x1050 22-in monitor that I color-calibrated with a spyder calibrater that I borrowed, and 1.5 TB storage.  I would really like to have a Wacom Tablet as well, and I definitely need more RAM.

Feel free to ask questions or share what you use or wish you had in the comments - and hopefully this will be of use to someone :) 

Part I

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that is really cool of you to post all that, Julie! I am looking for a new -real- camera, and I never thought of buying a used one, but what a good idea! Thanks for all the useful info!